Jalen Ramsey might be the best shutdown corner in football. He is the brilliant draft pick the Jacksonville Jaguars desperately needed for so long. He is the Mouth of the South, the quotable personality who is spiking jersey sales and buzz in a smaller Florida market.
He’s also causing some issues.
On Thursday, Ramsey was one of four Jaguars who stayed in the locker room during the national anthem before a preseason loss to the New Orleans Saints. Protests like that are only a “distraction” to those who hate the cause. Still, Ramsey and his teammates apparently did not inform head coach Doug Marrone that they were doing this, and he had to answer questions about it in the postgame news conference while Ramsey did not show up at his locker for interviews.
Then on Sunday, Ramsey was suspended for a week for “conduct unbecoming a Jaguars football player” after he threatened “war” on a local reporter who tweeted a video of a fracas at practice involving teammate Dante Fowler. The reporter was doing his job, but so was another reporter who tweeted about Ramsey getting beat by rookie D.J. Chark on a route during camp. The third-year star tweeted about that as well.
Lol already!? here you go reporting fake 💩 to get some clicks… @DJChark82 caught a deep ball on me (slight pushoff lol but good rep). He didn’t even do a triple move. The triple move was like 3 plays later on another 1on1 between other teammates. All good tho we WORKING! https://t.co/6IdPIbekv9
— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) August 1, 2018
None of these instances portend doom for arguably the best defense in the league. Fights break out during camp, players get rankled, and we live in an era where any negative coverage of anything is blasted as “fake news.”
The deeper concern is checks and balances in the locker room. Ramsey is the juice behind the emergent “Jaxson Five” secondary But it’s unclear who, if anyone, will tell him to pick his battles.
“We need to act like professionals at all times, regardless of what happens,” Posluszny said at the time. He went on to call the behavior “unacceptable on a lot of different levels.”
Posluszny retired over the summer, and Ramsey isn’t yet acting “like a professional at all times.”
The culture of the team has changed dramatically since Ramsey arrived. Gone is players coach Gus Bradley, replaced by the far-less-ebullient Marrone and, above him, one of the more demanding hombres in the sport, Tom Coughlin.
Neither of those guys are going to be tolerant of shenanigans of any sort, as was evidenced last season when Marrone benched running back Leonard Fournette – reportedly for missing a team photo – and the Jaguars won anyway. Who was ejected from that game? None other than Jalen Ramsey, who got into it with Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green.
Part of Ramsey’s genius, though, is his personality. He gets into people’s heads. His emotion is fuel. After his first NFL game, against the Green Bay Packers, the team lost but Ramsey offered a quip about Aaron Rodgers: “He didn’t throw my way. Write that.” This fires up both teammates and fans. Confidence is contagious and extra important for a team that nobody is used to paying much attention to nationally.
It’s highly unlikely that Ramsey’s behavior will annoy anyone in the locker room. Sticking up for the team against the media is almost always a popular play. But what kind of message will Ramsey receive from this? He is the present and future of the franchise, and the team needs him to embody the new “Swag-sonville.” But there is a fine line between voluble and volatile, and it’s not clear Ramsey knows how to find it.
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